Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz

Publication date: February 5th 2009
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 335


Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican-American family in New Jersey, he’s disastrously overweight, keeps falling hopelessly in love and dreams of becoming the next Tolkien. Meanwhile his punk sister Lola wants to run away, and his resolute mother Beli can’t seem to let either of them go.

Moving across generations and continents, from Beli’s tragic past in the Dominican Republic to struggles and dreams in suburban America, this is the wondrous story of Oscar, his family and their search for love and belonging.

Source: Goodreads


I have no idea what you could consider wondrous about Oscar Wao’s life, that’s for sure.

To enjoy a book, I need to feel engaged, in the centre of it all, like I am actually a part of the friendship group, family or action of the story. With “The Brief Wondrous Life..” I felt as though I was looking down from a height on a story I didn’t really understand. And some of the words I actually couldn’t understand – they were in Spanish.

Wallowing in self pity, we follow the life of overweight Oscar, a young Dominican student. Author Junot Díaz also details the lives of Oscar’s family. Despite the his attempt at creating an epic back story with spiritual repercussions for them, the family didn’t interest me. When you strip it back to the bare bones of the story, it’s about a young depressed boy trying to lose his virginity without even leaving his home or looking up from his books.

The style of writing didn’t appeal to me either. Despite multiple narratives, the colloquialisms, slang and use of Spanish throughout felt lazy. I almost felt as though this was a book intended only for those close to Díaz, people who understand the ins and outs of his thinking and mannerisms.

How this story won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle truly puzzles me. I began skimming about half way through when I finally told myself that life is too short for reading something you can’t stand.

Overall rating: Lacking in style and content, I really felt that the true meaning of this book could not be felt without some knowledge of the Spanish language and the history of the Dominican Republic. I felt like I was reading a book intended for someone else. It’s 1 star for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

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